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May 2015
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July 2015

But In Camelot (Cold-a-lot) That's How Conditions Are

For one brief shining moment I was cold free. It was long enough to celebrate MrsDrWho's birthday. Twice. One at a posh restaurant!! I had:

Miso Glazed Trout ,Autumn roots, slow egg, forbidden rice & xo chicken broth

And we ordered all the sides, the potatoes twice. There were six people so technically it was one side each. But we shared.

Roasted New Potatoes – dried olives & rosemary, aioli
Seasonal Green Vegetables – tossed in garlic & toasted almonds
Autumn Leaves – apple, walnut, parmesan & sage
Miso Roasted Pumpkin – chilli & cashew
Goats Cheese Polenta – slow egg & smoked paprika

The weather has been icy cold and then warm, it was 18*C on the East Coast. But it was so icy here, that it looked as if it had snowed. Peri and Gilly love the cold weather. I am surprised their paws don't freeze, but they run and play and roll on the icy grass.

Peri and Gilly icy cold

And now I have a head cold. The kind where you have to breathe through your mouth a lot. I am eating toast and Vegemite and I smell of Vick's Vapour Rub all the time. I do get up and walk The Labradors. If they go for a little walk I can stay in bed all day, happy-ish that they have had some attention.

I heard Lorelai Gilmore woofing in my sleep yesterday and when I woke up later on she had left her toy next to me, she wanted to play. Poor neglected dog. Peri has apparently been looking through the fence with a sad expression and extracting extra biscuits.

And now I am off to bed. Luckily The Labradors are trained to nap. I hope everyone is well and enjoying the weather wherever they are.


Friday Food: DIY Extracts

Extracts ready to do their thingThere was no Friday Food yesterday, not because I was unwell, but because I could not buy a zester. I really needed one. I went to the supermarket and to one posh kitcheny shop and neither had one. And I was having afternoon tea with The GardyGardeners, and they wait for no man, or woman!! Actually they do, but by then I was running late.

Uncle Dutch's birthday is coming up and as he is a dab hand at cooking I thought I would make him some extracts for flavouring his baking. There are lots of tutorials on The Pinterest, so I read through a few and they were pretty much of a muchness. A few people added sugar to their extracts, but I decided not to.

I had vodka that is over 25 years old and is still perfectly fine, and I had flavourings and that is all you need. Oh and some bottles or little jars. I sterilised the bottles and it only took about 15 minutes and I feel happier doing that.

You can flavour the vodka and make an extract using berries, nuts, citrus zest, vanilla pods, spices like cinnamon sticks or herbs like mint, coconut or even coffee. There are no fixed amounts really, I went with 1/2 a cup of vodka or whatever covered the flavour base. I did briefly wash the citrus fruit in some boiling water, just to clean it first.

The extracts must steep in a cool dark place for at least 4-6 weeks, and should be shaken every day or two. You can strain out the flavourings and decant into a new container, and then add a little more fresh flavour and you are ready to go again. Of course, taste the extract to see if it is the strength you desire.

 

DIY Extracts

I used:

  • 1 lemon
  • 1 orange
  • 4 vanilla pods
  • 1/2 bunch mint
  • 2 1/2 cups vodka

 

Wash bottles

Preheat your oven to 120*C-ish. To sterilise your bottles or jars, wash them well and then rinse in some boiling water. I made sure the water went inside the bottle.

Sterilise in oven

Carefully tip out any excess water and place upright on a tray in the oven and heat for 10 minutes. Remove and cool.

Zester

Oh, here's the zester I bought. It was only $6. I could have used my microplane grater or just cut off the skin in strips and removed the pith, but I wanted zesty ribbons.

Flavours

Prepare your flavours. I zested the orange and lemon. I cut the vanilla pods in half and then split them so the seeds were exposed, and I tore the mint leaves.

Add flavours to bottles

The bottle had narrow bottle neck openings and so I poked the flavouring in, a jar would have been easier!! Then just pour in the vodka, enough to cover or fill as much of the jar as you like. Really I would have liked smaller, cuter bottles, but there were none to be had.

Pour in vodka

Then I just closed the bottle tops securely and the extracts were ready to go.

Extracts ready to extract

And now store in a cool dark place. I put mine in the top of the dresser in the dining room. I should dust more, No, I shouldn't. Really, who cares if it's a little dusty in the dresser. I do not. Dusting is not high on my list of priorities.

In a dark cool place

Give the bottles a shake every day or so and taste a few drops to see if you think they are ready for you after a month. I'm going to add some labels before I gift these.


Friday Food: Chocolate on Chocolate Cake

M choc on choc cakeMrsDrWho asked for something over the top for her morning tea turn. I think this qualifies. It took a long time to make: all day. There is a lot of heating things up and then waiting for them to cool right down again. There are a lot of stages, but taken one at a time they are all very simple.

I can't use any nuts in my baking for MrsDrWho's school, so I used a Flake instead of a Picnic bar, but you could use any chocolate bar you fancied. The cake is filled with ganache and caramel spread. I was too tired to make a caramel so I used Top'n'Fill, which is caramel condensed milk. If I used a Cherry Ripe bar I would use some tinned or fresh cherries for example. It is a cake ready for creative baking.

I have it on excellent authority that the cake is still delicious and perfectly fine on the third day. This first picture is from the magazine, SuperFood Ideas. MrsDrWho kindly took a few photos at morning tea, but it is a bit much to ask for lots of shots of cake on a plate in the middle of a fraught recess. Teachers are lucky to get a lunch hour so I'm loath to interrupt recess.

It is an expensive cake to make, mainly because of the amount of chocolate involved and I do try and buy the best other people can afford. In all you will need 360g of good dark chocolate and 440g of milk chocolate too. Based on their estimate of $1-44 for each of the 20 serves it would cost $28-80 to make. I think that I managed to make it for a cheaper price, because I had the basics already in my pantry.

If you want a swish cake for a special occasion, I can highly recommend the Chocolate on Chocolate Cake.

 

Chocolate on Chocolate Cake    serves 20

  • 250g butter, chopped
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 180g dark chocolate, chopped
  • 1 cup caster sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten together
  • 1 cup plain flour
  • 1 1/2 cups self-raising flour
  • 1/4 cup Dutch cocoa
  • 1 x 30g Flake or 45g Picnic bar, chopped or crumbled
  • 1/2 cup caramel spread or Top'n'Fill
  • 2 extra Flakes or Picnic bars for decorating the top

Milk Ganache

  • 440g milk chocolate, chopped
  • 1 cup thickened cream

Dark Ganache

  • 180g dark chocolate, chopped
  • 1/2 cup thickened cream

 

Put the butter, milk, water, dark chocolate and both sugars into a saucepan over a medium heat. Keep an eye on it, as chocolate can easily catch on the bottom of the pan. Stir regularly for about 10 minutes until everything is dissolved and smoothly melted together.

Melt mix cool

Pour into a large bowl and set aside to cool completely.  Sift together the flours and cocoa.

Add other ingredients

When the chocolate mixture is cool, whisk in the beaten eggs and the sifted flours and cocoa. Preheat the oven to  160*C or 140*C fan-forced oven.

Line bake cool

Grease a 22cm, or 9 inch, spring-form tin. Line it with two layers of baking paper on the base and sides. I made sure the paper was peeping up above the rim of the tin. Bake for 1 1/2 hours. I rotated the tin half way through, and my cake needed another 10 minutes. I was extremely careful that the cake didn't burn. A skewer poked into the centre of the cake should come out clean and dry. It matters not a jot if the top of the cake cracks, as it will be covered with ganache. Now the cake must cool completely in the tin. This may take several hours. Do not despair.

Ganache

While the cake is cooling make the two types of ganache: milk and dark. They both follow this same method: gently heat the cream in a pan until it comes to the boil, then add the chopped milk or dark chocolate and stir with a metal spoon until the chocolate melts and the ganache is smooth. Refrigerate for about 30 minutes. It should be quite thick, but of a spreading consistency. If it sets too hard you can generally use a metal spoon to incorporate it back into the softer mixture in the centre.

You can also make ganache in the microwave, but I find I have more control using a pan on the stove.

Milk and dark ganache

When the cake is completely cool, prepare the serving platter.

Baked cake

I like to swirl a little of the ganache on the platter before I put the cake on it. It helps the cake stay in place.

First layer

Using a knife with a long blade, cut the cake into two relatively equal layers. I put my 2 layers side by side: the base on the serving platter and the top layer cut side up, on another plate. I try not to rotate the layers so that they match up when I put them back together. I used some strips of baking paper, inserted between the cake and the platter, to protect the platter from my many spills and mistakes. Just before the cake is served, you remove the paper and your serving plate is nice and clean.

Spread about 1/3 of the milk chocolate ganache on top of the base of the cake and then swirl in whichever kind of caramel you are using. Then scatter on one Flake or Picnic bar. Put the second layer on top and press gently and evenly so they bond.

Extra choc and top layer

Use the rest of the milk ganache to ice the sides. I spread it sparingly around the cake, and then a little over the top. Then I used any remaining to add to the sides and I swooshed upwards with my knife blade and the back of my spoon.

Milk ganache icing

Finally spoon and swirl the dark chocolate ganache over the top of the cake and then decorate with the remaining chocolate bars. 

Dark ganache and flake

If it is warm, keep the cake in the fridge. Here in Winter it was fine in MrsDrWho's pantry. Just before serving, whisk away the baking paper protecting the platter and use a hot butter knife to repair any ganache that may have come away.

Cake at morning tea

Wow, there you go. A mammoth effort, but broken up into manageable steps, very achievable.

And as Cookie Monster would say, this cake is a sometimes food.

Chocolate on Chocolate cake


Playing Beatie El-Bow

Wow, it's been cold. It will be -3*C tonight. The average June overnight temperature is +3*C. The long range forecast is for a colder, drier Winter and I think they are spot on. It is toasty warm with the new hot water bottle cover in action. I lost the hot water bottle stopper the other night. I tipped the water out in the garden when The Labradors went out for a wee and the stopper went too. To solve that problem I have tied the stopper to the actual hot water bottle!!

Hwb

It's a poor iPad photo, but you get the general idea. The cover is pilling like all get out, but it is snuggly warm and has no worn out holes so I am happy.

Peri and Gilly steps

Peri is not so happy, she hurt her arthritic leg yesterday. I am not sure what happened but I found her half on and half off the bed and her poor left elbow is very sore. She was limping quite badly. I gave her an extra half a tablet and we all went to bed at 8-30pm. She is much better today, no limp at all until this evening. It makes me realise that she is getting old quite quickly and that she may not be here much longer. Gilly tried to help, she was over helpful. I think she was worried too. I know Peri wasn't in too much pain, as I have learned that she shakes and won't eat. There was no shaking and A Lot of eating!!

  Knitting my mum a hat

I am knitting my mum a hat from some of the very lovely 10 ply Naturally Loyal. It is surprisingly soft and light and delicious to knit and wear. I'm making the Thrifter Beanie again, so it will be snug against her head but blousy around her hair: no hat hair resulting I hope!!! That's my hat on the right. It is so warm and I wear it when we walk at the dam

Speaking of the dam, I gave Rafa and Sandy's dads some pumpkin biscuits to take home for the dogs. Do you think Peri and Gilly knew there was a treat in a different pocket? You bet your sweet bippy they did.

Is there a treat in his pocket

 Though only Peri had true staying power, they others trotted off when no treats emerged.

Only peri holds out hope

MrsDrWho found a different kind of Nutella made with macadamias: Macabella. It smells delicious, I can't taste it, but I can see the pieces of macadamias in it. It's made by the Buderim Ginger people, but their FAQ isn't up and running it seems.

Choc macadamias

There are three things happening over the next two days so I have to rest up. I planned to do some tasks this week, but it hasn't panned out.  I did make a pretty marvellous cake for MrsDrWho's morning tea at school, even if I do say so myself. It took all afternoon from 1pm until 6pm. There was a lot of heating things up and waiting for them to cool down. It will be my Friday Food.

Oh and "Playing Beatie Bow"?? Fabulous book!!!